January 28th, 2010
07:51 AM ET

NATO killing of Afghan cleric stirs protest

Update 8:36 a.m. ET: The NATO-led command expressed regret for the killing of a religious leader by a military convoy Thursday. "Despite all the measures that we put in place to ensure the safety of the Afghan people, regrettable incidents such as this one can occur. On behalf of ISAF I express my sincere regrets for this loss of life and convey my deepest condolences to his family," said ISAF spokesman Brig Gen. Eric Tremblay, quoted in an ISAF news release.

Watch CNN's Dan River's report on the incident

Kabul, Afghanistan - Angry demonstrations took place Thursday outside a U.S. military base on the outskirts of Kabul after NATO-led forces fatally shot an Afghan religious leader. Mullah Mohmmad Younas, 36, of Paktia Kowt Mosque in Ud-Khil district, was sitting in a parked car with his two young sons, waiting for a convoy belonging to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force to pass, witnesses said.

The fourth ISAF vehicle opened fire without provocation, witnesses said. Abdul Ghafar, chief of criminal investigation for the Kabul police, said ISAF forces opened fire because the man got too close to the convoy.

Later, his car was moved to the yard of a nearby house. At least 16 bullet holes riddled its exterior (photo above). Residents said Younas was hit four times - three bullets entered his chest; one hit his abdomen. He died on arrival at a hospital.

ISAF confirmed the shooting, offered sympathies and said it was investigating.

"We can confirm one civilian was killed by ISAF forces this morning during an incident involving an ISAF convoy," a statement said. "The specific details of the incident are not known at this time. ISAF is conducting a thorough investigation in cooperation with our ANSF [Afghan National Security Forces] partners."

Younas led a nearby mosque. Angered by his death, about 150 people demonstrated outside Camp Phoenix, but the district police chief persuaded them to disperse.

Civilian casualties at the hands of U.S. troops have strained relations between Afghanistan and the United States. The numbers have fallen off in recent months since Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal took over as U.S. commander in Afghanistan.

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